MUSIC, LEADERSHIP, CULTURE… and humor (sometimes)

Archive for February, 2011

My Best Movie Oscar Rankings

The OSCARS are right around the corner and I am slightly proud to say that I have seen 9 of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture.  You must know that we do not have cable TV in our home here in Mexico so we satisfy our entertainment needs with movies and TV shows off the web.  In any case, viewing this many Oscar nominees is a DK first and so I thought I’d do my best Roger Ebert and Gene Shallit by ranking the films, 1 to 10.  Keep in mind that I am not a professional movie critic.  I just play one on TV.  Here we go, starting with what I feel is the most deserving film:

1.  INCEPTION

This may be the unpopular pick to win it because it’s too… popular.  I know we all live in a world that wants to rebel against the mainstream and the trendy but I got news for you, my fellow fans of Urban Outfitters: this was a GOOD movie.  Christopher Nolan has quickly become one of my favorite directors (especially after Dark Knight) and it’s a shame he’s not up for Best Director this year.  He is a cinematic visionary and his achievement with this film is nothing short of extraordinary.  I’m going to use a word here of which I’m not completely sure of its meaning but it’s going to work: Inception is a TOUR-DE-FORCE.  I think that’s French for “really, really good and all-encompassing.”  You have the usual, intense, solid performance from Leo and a well-constructed cast.  You have a great story-line and ground-breaking special effects.  Inception was fresh because it flirted with the vast, mysterious space of dreams and their power… almost like what Back to the Future did with time-travel, minus the comedy.  The voters may go with other choices, especially after the precedent set last year with Avatar’s snub… sure it was a very-expensive remake of Pocahontas meets Fern Gully meets Dances with Wolves but it was by far the most deserving and was a better film than Hurt Locker.  Seems the Academy is trying to avoid the major blockbusters in favor of the under-dogs but you have to recognize exceptional achievement and effort.  INCEPTION should win or else it may leave some of us spinning…. and spinning…. and spinni…

2.  THE FIGHTER

I don’t know if we will ever get tired of boxing movies.  I thought I was but I saw this film and it made me believe… in Christian Bale.  I loved him in The Dark Knight (even though his laryngitis-struck Batman voice was annoying) and his all-in, anorexic approach to The Machinist was stellar… but he was something else here in The Fighter.  Perhaps more intriguing was the performance of Amy Adams, who totally surprised me with her portrayal of The Fighter’s (Mark Wahberg) girlfriend.  If you haven’t seen Enchanted yet, you gotta, if for nothing but to see the contrast between her role there and her role in The Fighter.  It is the difference between Taylor Swift and Pink, Barbie and Catwoman, Lindsey Lohan in The Parent Trap and Lohan on… TMZ.  The movie gets extra points because it is based on a true story, successfully navigates through the tensions of a controlling and broken family, and it manages to comically over-exaggerate and somewhat define for us a “white trash” upbringing.  I’m also a sucker for movies that depict a believable brother storyline.  Love you, bro!

3.  TOY STORY 3

Is this the year that PIXAR wins a Best Movie Oscar?  I think it’s about time and Toy Story 3 has as good a chance as any movie this year.  The only problem is, I don’t know if the Academy counts votes from the 5-12 age bracket nor do they care that a cartoon movie managed to elicit tears from and grip the hearts of grown men the world over.  Seriously, when was the last time you felt moved to (near) tears by the near-demise of a bunch of talking toys?  The only time I can recall feeling distressed over an animated feature was when I was around 5 years old and Optimus Prime was headed toward the Sun.  *sniff*  This was probably the best Pixar movie of all time and completely thwarts the notion that the third installment in a trilogy will never surpass the first as the superior movie.  Godfather 3 certainly couldn’t do it.  Terminator 3?  Please.

4.  127 HOURS

James Franco is my dark horse to win the Best Actor Oscar this year because 1) it is difficult to successfully and believably carry a movie in which you are on screen alone for 1.5 hours, literally between a rock and a hard place, and 2) his genius portrayal of the funniest pothead in Pineapple Express should carry some rollover minutes toward an Oscar, don’t you think?  C’mon.  This is based on the true story of the hiker dude from several years ago who got his arm stuck between some boulders and ended up having to go Grey’s Anatomy on himself in order to survive.  A really, really well-told story and surprisingly captivating despite its limited cast (he’s pretty much the only guy) and virtually no change of scenery.  It’s like the movie Friday without the drugs and hip hop.  Must-see.

5.  THE SOCIAL NETWORK

I love Facebook!  You love Facebook!  We all love Facebook!  Good acting, great script, awesome story-telling, and a fascinating inside look at the origins of everyone’s favorite time-waster.  You also gotta love Justin Timberlake bringin’ Sexy Back to what is otherwise a very nerdy cast.  I think I’m going to stick with the media’s theory that the real-life Mark Zuckerburg was just about punked into donating a vast portion of his fortune to Warren Buffet’s league of extraordinarily rich gentlemen because he was portrayed as such a d-bag in the movie.  You can’t buy love but you can try to look generous and actually help needy people in the process.  Double win!

6.  THE KING’S SPEECH

I think this is the people’s choice for Best Movie but I am a bit disappointed that I don’t share the same sentiment.  Every Facebook post or tweet I see on this movie normally follows this sequence: 1) “Finally going to see King’s Speech tonight :)”   [3 hours and 5+ comments that all basically say “you’ll love it!” later]: 2) “King’s Speech.  Wow.  Movie of the Year.”  Followed by 7+ Likes.  The Academy seems to agree with 12 nominations but I just don’t get it.  Am I on something?  Maybe I need to watch this again.  I mean, I really enjoyed it and found it to be an unexpectedly hilarious film but I just don’t see what all the hype is about.  Either there are millions who aren’t telling the truth or I need to stop watching movies when I’m tired…  I will say this though: Geoffrey Rush = Brilliant.

7.  THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

Incredible movie about a Lesbian couple, their teenage kids and the drama that ensues when they get in touch with their sperm donor for the first time since the fertilization.  Sounds like a comic plot-line but I assure you that this film is intense and thought-provoking.  The story tries to address the real-life struggles and joys of a family led by a gay couple as well as the unusual, and often complicated issues their children go through as teens.  If you’re worried about a bias or an agenda with this movie, I personally didn’t find a heavy opinion that permeated through the movie so just chill.  Annette Benning was unbelievably convincing in this movie and it is now a fact in my mind that she is actually gay.  She was that good.

8.  BLACK SWAN

This is by far the “artsiest” movie of the bunch with lots open to interpretation, stunning visuals, and wonderful dance choreography laced throughout.  It is also a freakin terrifying movie.  It’s not The Exorcist but I made the mistake of knowing absolutely nothing about the movie before I started watching and what I got was a constant state of confusion mixed with tension and fear.  I thought it was going to be a nice movie about Natalie Portman pursuing a career in ballet.  Why is she hallucinating so much?  Why is Mila Kunis constantly popping up out of nowhere?  Why is Portman’s mom so incredibly creepy?  Why is there so much blood?  Why does this movie make me feel like I’m on (black) magic mushrooms?  I hate ballet!  I feel so hopeless!  Get me out of here!  Ahhh!  As the credits were rolling up, I was reminded that Jesus died for my sins so all was well, but as for the film, I had no idea what to think.  I looked over at my wife and she loved it.  I see the Oscar nominations a few weeks later and find out that Black Swan is on the list.  I guess it was a good movie. 

9.  TRUE GRIT

I have met plenty of people who had great things to say about this one but I just couldn’t get into it like everyone else.  I take most of the blame for this since 1) I might have been watching a Laker game at the same time we turned the movie on, 2) I may have been nodding off, very reminiscent of my classroom experiences in college.  I expected this movie to be a serious Old-Western but when I kept missing the apparent genius of the comical dialogue, I became lost.  I felt deceived.  I was tired.  So what else is new, you say?  You got me there.  Darn it. 

10.  WINTER’S BONE

I have not seen this movie which is why I have placed it dead last.  Only fair.  I’m sure it’s a great film, hence the nomination, but I have a sneaky suspicion that many college dudes will download this movie thinking that it’s a Ron Jeremy Christmas specialand they’ll be left feeling very disappointed.  Which is why we need to address the need for more role-models in this country.  We need more fathers and father figures.  Will you be one?  Do you like how I turned this into a “The More You Know” spot?

What about you?  What is your Top 3 with this year’s nominees?

That’s all folks.  Thanks for reading.  I am… tired.

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my joy in obscurity

Last year, when i left my dream job of working at Newsong Church as the guy who gets to do music full-time, i knew there was something else in store for me but i also had an inkling that it woudn’t be exactly what I envision or picture.  I had this fantasy that one of my songs I had previously written would get picked up by a major artist, movie or TV show (like Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, or Sports Center) and that through the life-time royalties I receive, i’d be able to travel the world with my family and never worry about money in the bank again. Never mind the technicalities of this type of thing; it’s just fun to think about, no?

I guess I got one thing right.  Ever since I left my job, I literally haven’t had to worry about money in the bank.  I’m experiencing miracles every month by receiving cash from random, unexpected sources while being backed by a group of supporters who believe in us and the life we’re trying to live in Mexico City.  Every time I feel a little antsy about money and start getting just a tiny bit stressed about how we’re going to pay for this or that, I am left feeling ashamed a little later for ever doubting.  I think God has been trying to drive a point home to me time and time again: my life is in His hands.  What a great place to be!

This post, however, is not about money (although I will definitely make future posts on this topic) but rather it is about what I feel we’re really down here in Mexico City for.  I had a conversation not too long ago about the whole idea of living overseas and how it seems to be over-dramatized, over-glorified and over-publicized, especially within the church context.  Though this may be true at times, what I am experiencing here is rather to the contrary… and I couldn’t be happier.

We talk a lot about how “our identity is not in what we do but in who we are” and never has that saying been tested more than in my time here.  I feel that my identity is being shaped constantly through what I feel is a season of obscurity, anonymity and irrelevance.  Though this sounds incredibly depressing and sad, I honestly say this with great joy!  Over here, I’m not known as the music guy, justice dude, laker fanatic or the whatever guy.  I have no label or classification.  I’m just DK.  I’m one of the guys that show up every day to paint, install dry wall, prime, sand, clean and install fencing at The Well trafficking safehouse or Cafe NEO– our new space in Coyoacan.  I’m a family man, doing all I can to love and take care of my pregnant wife and suddenly hyper-active 2 year old kid.  I’m a friend, trying my best to support and encourage my other friends here in Mexico City who have been at this for far longer than I have.  I’m a flawed human being, in need of constant work on my character.

There is no glitz, glamor, or glory in what we are doing right now.  I don’t think extended manual labor was ever in my picture of what we would do down here but it’s been great.  It’s actually been… fun.

I think the greatest thing that accounts for this joy and perspective is the end-picture that I see.  I  am driven by a love and desire to set things up for greater change to take place.  Though it might be way more fun to report back with stories of busting up sex trafficking rings and child rescues with guns a blazing, for now I am humbled and honored that I get to set up and build the safehouse where these girls will find healing. I find “glory” in being the best human being and agent of change I can be without the evening news doing a special on our work or people tweeting about me.  I find great satisfaction in being a more-than available husband and father to my wife and kid.

I read a Malcolm Gladwell book that included a quote which I will paraphrase: “hard work is a prison sentence only when it lacks meaning.” How very true.  I can take joy and pleasure in whatever it is I do because I find great meaning in the labor.  We are building towards life-transformation and a better future.  I’m honored to be a part of a process that also helps shape me.

I will admit though that at times this road has felt lonely and it hasn’t been an easy journey.  There have been times where I have felt ignored or misunderstood in times of my greatest need and darkness, as well as in times of some great joys.  Any time you’re a part of something that requires a pioneering spirit of sorts, it is easy to get into seasons of feeling alone and isolated.  Thank God that this isn’t necessarily true!

Francis Chan is  a very respected leader around the world and he recently made a decision to step down from a major position of influence to seek out what may be next for him and his family.  His decision was met by a great deal of scrutiny as well as support from around the country.  It seems many are waiting to see what becomes of him.  In one of the interviews I watched, he mentioned something about his impression that perhaps God was calling him into a season/life of greater obscurity.  Meaning, he would become “less-famous” in the name of serving in a more quiet capacity, doing what he feels is needed in the greater Kingdom picture.  I love that and it has definitely given more validity to the things I’m experiencing and learning right now.

I still have a ways to go in my own journey of the heart. I never want to share these things as an expert or as a person who has arrived in this mode of living or thinking.  I never want to discount the many beautiful things that are going on around the world and especially back home in the States.  I am not a critic of fame nor am i cynical of those who operate over very large platforms and audiences.  I believe these are actually gifts, and when employed with love and humility, I believe that “relevance” in terms of being “popular” can be a very good and powerful thing.

For now, I am grateful for the things I get to do every day– things that are very normal, sometimes-tedious, and un-celebrated.  It is a privilege to be here in Mexico City.  It is an honor to be a husband to Sadie and a dad to Micah.  I relish the challenge of being a good friend and neighbor. I am thankful to be a fighter of freedom for those exploited against their will.

thank you for reading!  this is part of me, in the flesh…

dk